What do you call a homepage? Incorporating indigenous knowledge into Wikipedia

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Workshop at Otapi High School, Manawan (Atikamekw First Nation, Canada). Photo by Pierre Coulombe, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A First Nation in Canada may soon have a Wikipedia to call their own.

The Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation, located in central Quebec, is one of the few aboriginal peoples in Canada where virtually the entire population still speaks the language, making it among the most vibrant among the First Nations.

An ongoing project, the first of its kind in Canada, is working with the Atikamekw community to develop Wikipedia content in their own language. The initiative’s goal is to one day have the Atikamekw Wikipedia, currently in the Wikimedia incubator join one of the hundreds of extant Wikipedias.

“It is a way to pass on ancestral knowledge using computers and it allows to preserve traditional practices,” project member Nehirowisiw says. “It is an educational tool for all.”

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Funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects has several other goals. It is expanding information about the nation on the French Wikipedia; uploading photos, archival documents, and maps to Wikimedia Commons; and is raising awareness among the Wikimedia community about the unique features of indigenous knowledge and languages. The final report will propose recommendations about how to better include indigenous content in Wikimedia projects.

This one-year pilot project (Fall 2016 to Summer 2017) follows a 2013–14 initiative conducted in in Manawan (Québec, Canada) by a linguist from Leipzig University, a high school computer teacher, and an Atikamekw language keeper.

Working together, they created “Wikipetia Project“, an educational project involving students from Otapi secondary school in Manawan to create articles on Wikipedia written in Atikamekw. By the end of this project, the students had created more than 160 articles.

Partners of the current project, “Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects“, include Manawan Otapi secondary school, Conseil Atikamekw de Manawan, Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw (CNA), Wikimedia Canada, Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS, Urbanisation, Culture, Société Research Center) with the collaboration of several members of the Atikamekw community.

A guardian of the Atikamekw language and his successor. Photo by Seeris, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The project is divided into three parts: training, pedagogical project and research project. The first includes training sessions with the Atikamekw community given by volunteers from Wikimedia Canada with the goal to make the community autonomous in their work on Wikimedia projects. An initial training took place at the Otapi secondary school in Manawan on October 24, 2016, and another was held with the CNA in La Tuque on November 28, 2016. In May 2017 there will be a session of photographic documentation within the Atikamekw community. The pedagogic project is taking place at the Otapi school from November 2016 to May 2017. In their computer class, students are writing articles in the Wikipetia Atikamekw Nehiromowin.

The research component is intended to document the pilot project with the aim to create a toolkit and a set of recommendations that could be used in other similar initiatives. It builds on discussions with community representatives about the best ways to share traditional knowledge on Wikimedia platforms. The issue of compatibility between free licenses and the principles of ethical research OCAPTM (ownership, control, access and possession), set out by Canadian First Nations, was also addressed during a research seminar. Representatives from the First Nations Information Governance Center and the Quebec National Archives and Library joined the discussion. This conversation will help to better understand the conditions that facilitate the creation of Native content in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and to raise awareness among the wikimedia community about the specificities of indigenous knowledge.

The project will conclude with a panel at the Wikimania Montréal conference in August 2017. A longer-term goal is to replicate similar projects with other Canadian Aboriginal communities, or elsewhere in the world, and broadly share this experience with the international Wikimedia movement.

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On the technical side, members of the community are working with the Institut linguistique Atikamekw (ILA) and techno-linguists of the Nation are working to create new words and to standardize the language to create an Atikamekw version of the MediaWiki interface.

For example, they need to invent new terms to translate “homepage”, “free license,” or “upload”. Instead of translating literally, they prefer to mobilize traditional references, often linked to the ancestral territory, because this allows the culture to appropriate technical modernity while transmitting its specific cultural imagination. It is also up to the community to define its own rules for the use of the encyclopedia: acceptance of oral sources, notoriety criteria for article topics that are open to indigenous realities, protection of sensitive information. It is a process of reflecting on the best ways to take advantage of this tool while adapting it to the Atikamekw epistemology.

Among the questions raised by translation is that of the classes of names: the Atikamekw language does not distinguish between the masculine and the feminine, but it distinguishes between animate and inanimate things. Is Wikipedia animated? The participants decided that it is.

Wikimedia Canada’s mission is to educate Canadian communities about the development of free and open knowledge in all languages, including Aboriginal languages. The objective of this strategy is to collaborate with Aboriginal communities in Canada and to introduce Aboriginal language speakers to Wikipedia with the goal that they become autonomous contributors in the development of content in their languages. It is in line with Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes the right to preserve, revitalize and develop indigenous languages—all integral parts of Canadian culture.

Manawan Sipi river. Photo by Kinew1975, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The next phase of the project is to organize a photographic hunting on the Nitaskinan, the Atikamekw’s ancestral homeland. This will take place in the Atikamekw communities of Manawan, Opitciwan and Wemotaci, as well as the towns of La Tuque and Joliette.

Before the beginning of this project, there were only a dozen free photos representing the atikamekw community in Wikimedia Commons. All dated back to the 1970s. The goal of this photographic expedition is to better reflect the current vitality of the community by photographing not only buildings but also people, traditional activities, lakes and rivers, animals, and the territory in general.

The photographic hunting will take place from April 26 to May 31 2017. An upload workshop will be organized on the last day of the photographic hunt to help the participants populate the Atikamekw category in Commons.

Benoit Rochon, President, Wikimedia Canada
Jean-Philippe Béland, Vice President, Wikimedia Canada
Nathalie Casemajor, Professor, INRS-UCS

Members of the project include: Jean-Philippe Béland (vice-president, Wikimedia Canada), Nathalie Casemajor (professor, Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre, INRS), Christian Coocoo (coordinator of cultural services, CNA), Jeanette Coocoo (retired teacher, Wemotaci), Antony Dubé (computer science teacher, Otapi school), Annette Dubé-Vollant (coordinator of pedagogic services, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Jean-Paul Échaquan (language keeper, Manawan), Karine Gentelet (professor in indigenous studies, UQO), Nastasia Herold (PhD candidate in linguistics, Leipzig University), Thérèse Ottawa (administrative agent, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Sakay Ottawa (director, Otapi school), Luc Patin (computer science teacher, Otapi school), Nicole Petiquay (Atikamekw Language Institute), André Quitich (former Chief of the nation), Céline Quitich (elected representative, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Benoit Rochon (president, Wikimedia Canada), as well as several other precious collaborators from the Atikamekw community.

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You can now add automatically generated citations to millions of books on Wikipedia

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Automatically generated citations to a world of books can now be utilized by any editor on Wikipedia. Photo via the National Library of Ireland, no known copyright restrictions.

It is no stretch to say that without books, Wikipedia would not exist.

The free encyclopedia relies on citations to ensure the information you find on Wikipedia is verifiable and based in reliable sources.  Even in the digital age, many of the highest-quality sources are the books available in your local library.

Yet despite their importance, adding references to Wikipedia has been difficult at times, requiring at minimum a basic knowledge of wikicode. Steady improvements have been made over the years to make it easier to add citations, including through the cite tool on Wikimedia’s visual editing interface. However, adding citations to books on Wikipedia is about to get a lot easier.

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A new partnership between the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library and OCLC, a global nonprofit library cooperative, will allow editors to easily generate citations to millions of books on Wikipedia using OCLC’s WorldCat—the largest database of books in the world, spanning the collections of more than 72,000 libraries.

The WorldCat database will be integrated into the cite tool so that an editor can type in an ISBN, an identifier available inside hundreds of millions of published books since the 1970s, and get back a Wikipedia-ready book citation, including authors, titles, and publishers.

“Wikipedia and its editors worldwide collaborate to create one of the most popular global resources on the Web,” said Chip Nilges, OCLC Vice President, Business Development. “OCLC and its member libraries collaborate to make WorldCat the premier global resource for discovery of library collections. Through this partnership, dedicated editors and librarians worldwide are working together to make Wikipedia a richer research experience, and readers are finding supporting material they want through links to libraries.”

James Forrester, Product Manager for Editing at the Wikimedia Foundation, said:

We are driven by our desire to help our volunteer editors make the Wikimedia projects be the best they can be. We are building collaborative, inclusive tools for creating and editing free knowledge. That knowledge is underpinned by facts—referenced, organised, clear, and checkable facts.

Easily adding more references to Wikimedia wikis via ISBNs is a great boon to our editors and readers. It will help them double-check articles in their library, see further context, and find more knowledge to share. I’m very excited that we are partnering with OCLC and to see their wonderful WorldCat resource harnessed towards our shared mission.

 
A detailed step-by-step process on how to use this feature is below. It expands upon Wikipedia’s current method of citation auto-filling, which allows editors to generate a citation from a single online identifier, like a web address (URL) or digital object identifier (DOI).

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How to use the cite tool

1) Click “edit” in the bar at the top of your page.

2) Switch to the visual editor

3) Use the visual editor’s cite function

4) Enter any ISBN

5) Cite tool automatically generates a citation using WorldCat’s ISBN data

6) The rich citation is added to Wikipedia

Boris., Juh, (2007-01-01), Sveto pismo zvočnica, Mladinska knjiga Založba, ISBN 9788611177434, OCLC 781329324

More information on this is available on Mediawiki.org.

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Wikipedia Library–OCLC partnership

This collaboration between the Wikipedia Library and OCLC deepens an already strong relationship between OCLC and the Wikimedia movement. In 2012, OCLC worked with a Wikipedian in Residence, Max Klein, to explore ways that library metadata could contribute to Wikipedia. The result of their work was a Wikipedia bot that adds VIAF authority control numbers (Virtual International Authority File) to Wikipedia infoboxes—in cataloguing-speak, adding numbers that easily and consistently identify people. Long-time Wikipedian and librarian Merrilee Proffitt, who works at OCLC Research, spearheaded the VIAF initiative. She was joined by Cindy Aden (née Cunningham) in a later collaboration with the Wikipedia Library; together, they pioneered the Wikipedia Visiting Scholar position and established positions at five universities.

Merrilee Proffitt said of the new WorldCat initiative, “Quality sources​ are at the heart of every Wikipedia article, be it a stub or a feature level article. We want adding citations to be as easy as possible, and it makes sense to harness identifiers to ease the burden. Thanks to the hard work of the thousands of catalogers and the contribution of OCLC member libraries, WorldCat contains ISBNs which​ can help when a source is a monograph. As an added bonus, the resulting citation helps lead end users to libraries where they can find those trusted sources and others like them—for free.”

At library conferences like American Library Association Annual, the Wikipedia Library and OCLC have often worked together to share information about each organization to interested librarians, and Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President and Chief Strategist of OCLC,has spoken progressively about Wikipedia’s growing role in the research ecosystem of library users. In March 2017, OCLC announced that they were hiring Monika Sengul-Jones as a Wikipedian-in-Residence, a position funded by a project grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, to facilitate their Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together project. In 2016, OCLC was a winner of the Knight News Challenge for a project to promote participation of public librarians on Wikipedia.

This partnership empowers Wikipedia editors and readers to harness the impact of full and accurate citations. With improved access to references that back up the facts, Wikipedia becomes a better, richer free knowledge resource for all.

Jake Orlowitz, Head of the Wikipedia Library
Wikimedia Foundation

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Two ravens’ ‘song and dance routine’ is the picture of the year

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First place. Photo by Colin, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The results are in, and the Wikimedia Commons picture of the year has been announced: a pair of ravens that clearly don’t have stage fright.

The intriguing image, seen above, features Jubilee and Munin, two of the Tower of London’s six ravens. It was captured by long-time Wikimedia volunteer Colin. According to the Wikipedia article about the ravens, it is said that the ravens’ presence helps protect the British throne, as “a superstition holds that ‘if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it’.” All six are enlisted as soldiers in the British army, and are prevented from flying great distances by the clipping of one wing.

Animals were a particular strong point in this year’s competition, taking the top three and five of the top seven spots. The second place image showed two elephants casually strolling down a road in Thailand, and third place featured a polar bear jumping between ice floes after missing out on a tasty seal dinner. In our interview with the photographer (Andreas Weith) late last year, he told us that “you need to know that nature will present you with very short-lived situations that will never come back.”

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Colin, who has 14,000 edits and uploaded over 800 images to the website, discovered Jubilee and Munin’s antics while on a family excursion to the Tower of London. “We did all the usual tourist things of seeing the crown jewels and getting a tour,” he told us. “These two ravens were posing together on a railing, and I joined with everyone else in taking photos of them. They are big birds, and very intelligent. When I got home, I discovered this photo captured a funny moment where they seemed to be doing a little song and dance routine, with their wings out slightly and one bird talking.”

As it turned out, he snapped the photo at the perfect time; seconds after taking this shot, he captured the ravens looking like they’re walking away from a fight or have bid each other adieu.

Last year, Colin’s fellow Wikimedia editors voted to grant “featured” status to the image, a marker of quality used on the site and other Wikipedias to denote their best work. This made it eligible in the picture of the year competition, in which over 3,600 people voted for their favorite. “I wasn’t sure whether it would succeed as a featured picture, since it isn’t the usual encyclopaedic photograph of a bird specimen and it wasn’t quite as sharp as I’d have liked,” he said. “I think people find it amusing and it captures the character of these clever birds.”

Colin’s usual photographic work focuses on buildings; indeed, these ravens were a fortunate side effect of the journey to the Tower of London, which he took several shots of on the same day (example). We asked about what drew him to structures:

Like many keen amateur photographers, I take photos on holiday and like to share those, and I’m particularly fond of photographing Scotland, where I’m from. I’m fortunate I work in London, which has loads of fantastic photo opportunities. One of my favourite weekends is Open House London in September, where hundreds of interesting buildings are open to the public. That’s been a gold mine for unusual building-interior photos such as the Lloyd’s Building and City Hall. You get a chance to visit places that are usually not accessible, like the dome of Westminster Central Hall, which has one of the best views in London.

Considering how big London is, there are very few people living here taking good photos for Commons or Wikipedia. One such is David Iliff , who is an inspiration for many people on Commons. He is best known for taking hundreds of great photos of English cathedrals, though he’s gone back home to Australia now and is busy with his new family. He encouraged me to make high-resolution images by stitching together many photos with panoramic software. An example is my photo of the Royal Albert Hall, which is composed of 21 frames each with 3 different exposures, resulting in a 171 mega-pixel image. That image came second in Wiki Loves Monuments 2016. My favourite photo is of the interior of Paisley Abbey, which is in my home town, though of course much of the credit must go to the amazing craftsmen who built it.

This photo and the other eleven winners are all available under free licenses on Wikimedia Commons, the online repository of free-use images, sound, and other media files. The two ravens above, for instance, are licensed under Creative Commons’ CC BY-SA 4.0—meaning that can be used by anyone, anywhere, subject only to certain requirements like attribution to the creator (Colin) and sharing any remixes under a similar license.

You can find more info on previous picture of the year competitions over on Commons.

Second place: Wild elephants walking up a road in the area of Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. Photo by Khunkay, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Third place: A polar bear chasing a bearded seal. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate, Communications
Wikimedia Foundation

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Somou Prize writing contest ends with nearly five hundred new Arabic Wikipedia articles

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Arabic Wikipedia editors in a 2011 workshop. Photo by Faris Knight, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In under two months, thirteen Wikipedians have created 472 new articles on the Arabic Wikipedia. Eight of those articles have been nominated for featured and good articles, articles that are rated by the Wikipedia community as one of the best on the encyclopedias. Those Wikipedians achieved this as part of the Somou Prize writing project.

Somou was a writing contest on the Arabic Wikipedia that lasted from 1 February through 29 March 2017. The contest encouraged both experienced and new users to create new articles that meet minimum quality standards on the Arabic Wikipedia, especially within Wikipedia’s areas of need. Participants who reached the goals received modest rewards.

The word itself is Arabic for “elevation,” but the prize was named after the Saudi prize grantmaking association Somou Society, which supports community development projects in the cultural and educational fields in the Arab World.

“Wikipedia is [one of] the most famous content platforms that comes first in search results. That’s why we’ve chosen to support it,” said Noura Elamoudy and Bayiena Alqahtany from Somou Society. “Contributors don’t need to go to a certain place or necessarily work with a certain group of people. It is open for volunteers anywhere at any time.”

Somou Society reached out to the Arabic Wikipedia community with an offer to support one of their projects, without placing limitations on what that project would look like. Wikipedian Mervat Salman came up with the idea of the contest and took the lead on implementing it.

Having participated in several contests, both as a contributor and organizer, Salman thought about an option that encourages “the most people to participate and win.” That way, the participants will be thinking more about challenging themselves rather than competing with fellow Wikipedians.

“I wanted everyone to be able to participate,” Salman explains, “so I could get the attention of the newbies.” She continues:

“The second step was establishing a team. I asked three active Arabic Wikipedia editors to support us and help us unofficially formulate the rules.” Farah Mustaklem, Bachounda Mohamed, and Mahmoud Alrawi worked with Salman on drafting the rules and Somou Society immediately “welcomed the plan and agreed to announce the contest,” according to Salman.

“I’m proud that we were able to turn this from a competition between editors into a personal challenge for each,” Mustaklem says. “No “prizes” were given, but rewards were given depending on individual contribution. I believe there is a need to encourage new and old editors alike to add good content to Wikipedia.”

Any participant who creates 20 new articles or more that are well written with a minimum of five kilobytes that conform with Wikipedia’s style guide could win. More points were given to those working on articles in Wikipedia’s areas of need, i.e., scientific, medical, engineering articles, etc.

That approach led to the creation of 241 articles in those fields, which is slightly over half of all the articles created. Many editors were encouraged by the contest to write about their field of study and things they have passion for.

“Since joining medical school, nothing has made me as happy as eliminating false information and helping patients understand their cases,” says Fatma Alzahraa, a Wikipedian and Somou Prize participant. “I have spent four years searching for ways to share knowledge as a form of Zakat (giving charity) to teach people what I have learned. My friend Eman Alemam and the Daad Initiative introduced me to Wikipedia, where I both share my knowledge and learn new things.”

Fatma Alzahraa lost her dad a few days after the beginning of the contest. She took a break from the internet but returned before the contest ended, where she found shelter from negative feelings.

“I don’t think that I will be as balanced [emotionally] as I was when my father was alive, but I’m happy that Wikipedia was in my mind and that I remembered to participate in time. I focused mainly on Wikipedia and my school exams.” Incidentally, Fatma Alzahraa did great in both of them.

Like Fatma Alzahraa, Alaa is a medical student who joined the contest to work mainly on medical articles. Alaa earned most of his points in the contest with 64 newly created articles. “My goal from day one on Wikipedia was to share what I learned in different topics and in the medical field in particular. I work on verifying the information and adding reliable references, which is really important as false information may mislead the reader and be bad for Wikipedia’s reputation.”

In the last day of the competition, Alaa wrote 17 new articles with over 120 kilobytes to help achieve the goal he established for himself.

Wikipedia user Abdulkader.saied from Aleppo, Syria participated in the contest with articles about agriculture and animal husbandry. He believes that editing is a great way to learn and unplug. “Reaching the contest goals in the midst of the current crisis and with my school exam makes me feel proud,” he states.

The achievements of Fatma Alzahraa, Alaa, Abdulkader.saied, and their fellow contributors made everyone look forward to similar future projects. Alamody and Alqahtany from Somou Society told us that they “may repeat the experiment and expand the effort if given the opportunity.”

In brief

Pedagogy Award of the year in Sweden: The Wikipedia Education Program and the Wikipedia GLAM community (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) in Sweden are joining forces for a project that gives schools an access to collections and literature to help share it on Wikimedia projects. Their efforts have been recognised with the Pedagogy Award of the Year, presented at the spring conference for Swedish Museums on 25 April.

Wikimedia Sweden (Sverige) partnered with Stockholm digital archives for schools and the Swedish National Heritage Board to start the project in 2016. 250 students, in primary and secondary education, and 10 teachers in Stockholm joined the pilot.

Wikimedia in Google Summer of Code 2017 and Outreachy round 14: Wikimedia’s accepted candidates for the Google Summer of Code 2017 and Outreachy 14 have been announced.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is an annual project where students spend the summer working on a free open-source project of their choice mentored by one of the participating organizations. Outreachy is a program that connects people from groups underrepresented in free and open source software in a three-month, full-time internship and runs two editions every year. Wikimedia is a mentoring organization in both of the programs.

Board of Trustees: On Sunday, the elections committee for the 2017 Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees elections held a live discussion for the candidates to introduce themselves and share their future plans with the Wikimedia community in addition to answering their questions.

Bhubaneswar heritage edit-a-thon: Odia Wikipedians are partnering with Bhubaneswar Development Authority to run a Bhubaneswar Heritage Edit-a-thon (editing workshop). The edit-a-thon is aimed at improving Bhubaneswar’s digital presence and announcing Bhubaneswar as a QRpedia city. With this Edit-a-thon, Bhubaneswar will be one of the first cities in Odisha to install QRpedia codes on all of its heritage monuments.

Student editors in Egypt wrap up nine terms on Wikipedia: Students in Cairo and Alazhar universities in Egypt have finished the ninth term of the Wikipedia Education Program. The program aims at assigning students to edit Wikipedia as part of their school work. In Egypt, student editors have added millions of bytes to Wikipedia.

According to Walaa Abdel Manaem, a Wikipedia and program leader in Cairo University, “12.3% of the featured articles, 7.7% of good articles, 2.7% of featured portals, and 3.8% of featured lists of the Arabic Wikipedia,” are developed by the program students in Egypt.

Central and Eastern Europe Wikipedians write many articles about Romania and Moldova: Participants of the Wikimedia CEE Spring writing contest has spent the last two months writing about their region’s culture, history, geography and politics. That resulted in writing over 3,400 articles.

Hungarians did a particularly notable job as they wrote 80 articles mainly about Romanian female gymnasts. Bulgarians joined the efforts and created 27 articles on Romania and Moldova, while Ukrainians created 22.


Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern

Wikimedia Foundation

 

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Powerful new search tools help edit patrollers find their targets

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Photo by Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Taken together, these facts point to a problem: Edit reviewers need powerful tools to handle the avalanche of wiki edits, but power tools can do damage to good-faith newcomers. Is there a way to help edit reviewers work more efficiently while also protecting newbies?

That’s precisely the question that’s been driving the Foundation’s Collaboration Team over the past months. We think the answer is yes, and we took a big step toward making good on that conviction with the recent release of the new filters for edit review beta. The beta adds a suite of new tools to the Recent Changes page and introduces an improved filtering interface that’s more user friendly yet also more powerful. Of special note are two sets of filters that let patrollers on several wikis leverage advanced machine learning technology with new ease.

Work smarter

The AI-powered contribution quality filters make predictions about which edits will be good and which will have problems.” Here, a reviewer filters broadly for edits that “May have problems.” At the same time, she uses colored highlighting to emphasize the worst or most obviously bad edits (in yellow and orange). The user is in the process of adding a red highlight to accentuate “Likely bad faith.”

Recent changes is essentially a search page. By helping patrollers more effectively zero in on the edits they’re looking for, the New Filters beta can save them time and effort. It does this in a number of ways.

Quest for quality: Over the years, reviewers have developed numerous techniques for picking out edits most in need of examination.  Contribution quality prediction filters take this to a new level of sophistication. Powered by the machine learning service ORES, they offer probabilistic predictions about which edits are likely to be good and which may, as the system diplomatically puts it, “have problems.” (“Problems” here can be anything from outright vandalism to simple formatting errors.) Armed with these predictions, edit reviewers can focus their efforts where they’re most needed.

The quality prediction filters make use of scores from ORES’ damaging test and are available only on wikis that support this function. Subscribers to the ORES beta feature have seen damaging scores before, but the new beta deploys the scores very differently. Reviewers now rank edits using a series of up to four filters that offer choices ranging from “Very likely good” to “Very likely have problems” (see illustration).1

Figuring out how to present sophisticated artificial intelligence functions in ways that users find clear and helpful was a big focus for the project team during design and user testing. Going forward, we plan to standardize the new approach wherever possible across tools and pages that use ORES.

Use Highlighting to pick out the edit qualities that interest you most. Here, the user filters for edits that are “Very likely good faith.” With colors, she spotlights new pages (yellow) and edits by new users (green and blue). Note the yellow-green row at bottom; the blended color and the two colored dots in the left margin signify that the edit is both a “Page creation” and by a “Newcomer.”

Hit the highlights: Expert patrollers have an amazing ability to scan a long list of edit results and pick out the vital details. For the rest of us, however, recent changes search results can present as dense and confusing walls of data. This is where the new highlighting function can be helpful.

Highlighting lets reviewers use color to emphasize the edit properties that are most important for their work. In the illustration above, for example, the reviewer is interested in new pages by new users. By adding a new layer of meaning to search results, Highlighting, again, lets reviewers better target their efforts (learn more about highlighting).

About face: The old recent changes interface had grown incrementally over the years, like the layers of an ancient city. It could be hard to understand, and in testing we found that many users just ignored the many functions on offer. Slapping yet another layer of tools on top of the pile would, we judged, only add to the confusion.

The new interface is designed to help users by giving them useful feedback. Here, the system instructs the user about selected filters that are in conflict.

Accordingly, designer Pau Giner completely reimagined the interface to make it both friendlier than the existing one and more powerful. Functions are grouped logically and explained more clearly. A special “active filter” area makes it easy for users to see what settings are in effect. And the system is smart about providing helpful messages that clarify how tools interact  (see illustration).

Under the hood, the filtering logic has been reorganized and extended, so that users can more precisely specify the edit qualities they want to include or exclude. (Without going into  the details, suffice it to say that users now refine their searches in a manner that will feel familiar from popular shopping and other search-based sites. Learn more about the filtering interface.)

Find the good

Recent changes patrolling has, understandably, always focused more on finding problems and bad actors. But a number of new search tools let reviewers seek out positive contributions. The “very likely good” quality filter, for example, is highly accurate at identifying valid edits. Two other new toolsets are aimed particularly at finding new contributors who are acting in good faith.

For all intents:  User intent predictions filters add a whole new dimension to edit reviewing. Powered, like the quality filters, by machine learning (and, like the quality filters, available only on certain wikis), they predict whether a given edit was made in good or bad faith.

Hold on, you might be thinking: intent is a state of mind. How can a computer judge a mental,  and even moral state? The answer is that the ORES service has to be trained by humans—specifically, by volunteer wiki editors, who judge a very large sample set of real edits drawn from their respective wikis. These scored edits are then fed back into the ORES program,  which uses the patterns it detects to generate probabilistic predictions. (This page explains the training process and how you can get it started on your wiki.) The new interface ranks these predictions into four possible grades, ranging from “very likely good faith” to “very likely bad faith.”

The intent filters are new, and it remains to be seen just how patrollers will put them to use. Clearly, a bad-faith prediction will act as an additional red flag for vandalism fighters. We’re hoping that the good-faith predictions will prove useful to people who want to do things like welcome newcomers, to recruit likely candidates for WikiProjects and to generally give aid and advice to those who are trying, however unskillfully, to contribute to the wikis .

Are you experienced: The New Filters beta also adds a set of “Experience level” filters that identify edits by three newly defined classes of contributors.

  • Newcomers have fewer than 10 edits and 4 days of activity. (Research suggests that it’s these very new editors who are the most vulnerable to harsh reviews.)
  • Learners have more experience than newcomers but less than experienced users (this level corresponds to autoconfirmed status on English Wikipedia).
  • Experienced users have more than 30 days of activity and 500 edits (corresponding to English Wikipedia’s extended confirmed status).

More to come

“New filters for edit review” is very much in development; over the next few months, Collaboration Team will stay focused on fixing problems and adding new features. Among the improvements on our task list: Incorporate all existing recent changes tools into the new interface; add a way for users to save settings; add additional filters users are requesting. Then, after another round of user testing, the plan is to bring the new tools and interface to watchlists.

As always, we need your ideas and input to succeed. To try the new filters for edit review go to your beta preferences page on a Wikimedia wiki and opt in. Then, please let us know what works for you and what could be better. We’re listening!

Joe Matazzoni, Product Manager, Collaboration, Editing Product
Wikimedia Foundation

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Looking back on World Book and Copyright Day

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Photo by Nicki Dugan, CC BY-SA 2.0.

April 23 was World Book and Copyright Day, an international day created by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and protection of intellectual property. This year, the day was celebrated with events and activities happening around the world, focusing on access to information for print disabled people and how information and communications technologies can help to improve it.

Access to printed materials is an essential part of access to education and culture, and a key support for individuals to fully participate in society. Literacy and access to books is a global issue that affects people’s abilities to address other development challenges; access in particular is an acute problem in many parts of the world, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, where most people do not own a book.

Access to printed works is even lower for people with a print disability. The World Blind Union has calculated that in developed countries only 10% of written material is accessible to people with a print disability. In developing countries, this number falls to just 1%.

“World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO. “It is said that how a society treats its most vulnerable is a measure of its humanity. When we apply this measure to the availability of books to those with visual impairments and those with learning or physical disabilities (with different causes), we are confronted with what can only be described as a ‘book famine’.”

One potential solution to people’s limited access to printed materials is to make digital books and other online resources—like Wikipedia, for instance—available to them on mobile devices. Over six billion people, out of a total of seven billion on the planet, now have access to a mobile phone.

Wikipedia and accessibility

Volunteers are working to ensure that Wikipedia is available for everyone to access and contribute, including people with print disabilities. Projects within Wikimedia like Wikispeech, an open source text-to-speech solution targeted to Wikipedia, and other information-rich texts, including ebooks, aim to improve accessibility. Wikipedia also uses more general assistive technologies, like screen readers, which improve people’s ability to access and add to Wikipedia’s knowledge. A wonderful explanation of what life is like as a blind Wikipedia contributor was recently written about Graham Pearce, who shared his experiences including how it differs from sight-based contribution.

Wikipedia loves books

Whilst Wikipedia has usurped the role of print encyclopedias in many parts of the world and the vast majority of the references on Wikipedia link to other digital material, books are vital to Wikipedia. Despite most contemporary publications having some form of digital incarnations, for hundreds of years physical books offered – and still offer – a vital way to share information.

A simple search on Google Books or on more targeted research collections, like JSTOR or Project MUSE, will not provide the information found in many books. Wikipedia editors rely heavily on physical reference materials, especially when working on specialist or historical subjects. There is a huge volume of printed materials that currently have no digital representation; digitization is simply too costly and takes too long for many institutions holding these books.

Wikipedia needs free licenses

Copyright is an intrinsic part of how Wikipedia is created. The Creative Commons licenses provide two permissions that are fundamental to the functioning of Wikipedia:

  • To adapt: Wikipedia is a collaboration between tens of thousands of people working together. It is far from unusual for hundreds of people work together on a single article. Without the ability to alter other contributors’ text, Wikipedia would be unable to adapt over time.

Wikipedia needs you

For many people, their love of reading stems from specific books—whether that’s falling through portals into fictional worlds, or understanding the world in new ways through factual, non-fiction narratives.

You can help people learn more about the books you love, the characters within them, the authors who created them, and the worlds that inspired them by writing on Wikipedia. If you have never contributed to Wikipedia before, you can use our getting started guide.

You can also share knowledge within these books on Wikipedia by using them as references. This is especially important for less well-known subjects where limited information is available online. The English Wikipedia, for example, generally require that users note where they got their information by citing reliable sources, like books, so that readers can verify everything for themselves. To assist in this process, Wikipedians on many language wikis can get access to the Wikipedia Library, which has been set up to grant Wikipedia contributors free access to various online databases for the purpose of improving Wikipedia.

By contributing to Wikipedia, you will not only be helping others to discover the books you love—you will become an author yourself and work with thousands of other people to build on the largest reference work ever created.

John Cummings, Wikimedian in Residence
UNESCO

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Community digest: Women in Red’s impact on Wikipedia’s gender gap; news in brief

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Chemist Margaret D. Foster, restored and nominated to a featured picture by WiR participant Adam Cuerden. Photo by National Photo Company, public domain.

As of the beginning of this year, the English Wikipedia had 1.4 million biographies. Only 240,000, or about 17%, were about women.

This sort of content gender gap is one reason why WikiProject Women in Red exists. Formed a bit under two years ago, the volunteer-led initiative has led to the creation of over 45,000 biographies about women on the English Wikipedia. In particular, articles on women scientists have been improved at a rate significantly higher than the site as a whole. This work has helped combat Wikipedia’s gender gap, both in terms of volunteer contributors or article subjects; an April 2011 Wikimedia Foundation study found that only one in every ten Wikipedia editors are women.

Women in Red’s name stems from the color of links to non-existent articles. While surfing Wikipedia, you cannot miss the blue hyperlinks that take you to other Wikipedia articles. Many people have fallen down rabbit holes while clicking them. However, you might have skipped over the red links that denote nonexistent articles. Women in Red refers to the latter: they want to take those red links and turn them blue by creating articles on notable women.

“There are many notable women who have done amazing things,” says project member SusunW, “but whose histories have been overshadowed by their spouses, by lack of media coverage, and by cultural bias. I write because I don’t want future generations following us to have so few women who are visible as role models.”

SusunW has, along with other members, improved 13 Wikipedia articles to “good article” status, a quality classification used by the English Wikipedia community. Five of them were created by her, appearing on the site for the first time as a result of her work.

“I try to focus on minority women,” she explains: “non-western women, and women who contribute to society. The candidates I choose as subjects are not women who are famous, but rather women who have made a difference.”

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight co-founded the project. She was later named as a co-Wikipedian of the Year together with Emily Temple-Wood for working on projects that boosted female participation on Wikipedia. Stephenson-Goodknight attended the events held in March every year to encourage editing about women, but she wonders why women’s history is only celebrated one month out of the year.

“When Roger and I founded WikiProject Women in Red, we were clueless if anyone would be interested in writing women’s biographies on a regular basis aside from March each year,” says Stephenson-Goodknight.

She continues: “My pervading view was to say ‘yes’ to every possible opportunity which came our way. I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, we’d only write a handful of articles on that particular topic.”

The project now holds three events per month on average. Since July 2015, between one and three thousand articles have been created every month. The events take different forms: some are “contests, others are challenges, most are only virtual events, some include in-person meetups, some are international in scope, and some are very narrow,” Stephenson-Goodknight explains.

Helping to bolster a collaborative spirit is Women in Red’s atmosphere. Sue Barnum, one of the project contributors, described it as “the friendliest place on Wikipedia.” Gathering many editors who share the same values was not an easy job, but it paid off in building “a harassment-free zone for on-wiki conversations,” as Stephenson-Goodknight calls it.

For Barnum, participating in the project was an eye-opening experience where preparing the material for editing helped her learn about women she knew nothing about. “I had no idea so many amazing women were out there,” says Barnum. “I didn’t know there were Yemeni feminists. I didn’t know that there was an all-woman, all African-American WWII company sent overseas. These people are forgotten, erased. That’s not okay.”

With her willingness to share her experience with the other project contributors, Barnum volunteered to be the project’s Librarian in Residence. Editors refer to her when they need help researching material to edit their articles.

The Women in Red project has expanded to other languages on Wikipedia. It is now available in Albanian, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Persian, and Spanish. It also keeps growing on the English Wikipedia where every hand is needed to keep it running smoothly.

“The success of Women in Red depends on the labor of many,” says Stephenson-Goodknight, “and everyone needs a break sometimes, so the more editors who contribute in their own time and their own way, the better. This doesn’t apply only to article creation and improvement. It also applies to our talkpage, which now contains thousands of posts. We’ve created a friendly and safe space for conversations regarding this work and as much as I’m in awe of the more than 45,000 articles we’ve created on the English Wikipedia.”

In brief

“Wikimedia hubs” coming to Nigeria: The Nigerian user group is establishing Wikimedia hubs at universities in the country. Led by Olaniyan Olushola, the group’s president, they plan to create a group of 20 students per institution to study the site and share their acquired knowledge with others. Olushola told us that “We hope this project will create a paradigm shift, turning these students from Wikipedia readers to active contributors.” This move comes as a survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Reach team has indicated that over three-quarters of Nigerians are not aware of Wikipedia, and that the encyclopedia more popular among students than among the population as a whole. To learn more, visit the Wikimedia Fan Club, University of Ibadan and Wikimedia Hub, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) pages on Meta.

Meet a Wikipedian!: The youngest active editor on the Punjabi Wikipedia is Baljeet Bilaspur. Known as Baljeet Bilaspur within the Wikimedia community, he is a student in the tenth class from Bilaspur, Punjab. He became acquainted with Wikipedia in June 2015 during a workshop led by Charan Gill. His interest in technology motivated him to contribute content to the Punjabi Wikipedia, such as computer-related stub articles in Punjabi such as Central Processing Unit, Computer virus and Hard disk.

In November 2016, he participated in the first-ever Wikipedia Asian Month and became the Punjabi community’s Wikipedia Asian Month Ambassador by writing the highest number of articles. It was this experience which led him to explore his interest in Chinese history via Wikipedia—most of the articles created by him were related to the country’s rivers, mountains, ethnic groups, and ancient dynasties (like Sui dynasty, Zhou dynasty and Tang dyansty). As of January 2017, he has written around 375 articles on Punjabi Wikipedia during the course of making more than 5000 edits. For the future, he hopes to learn more about the technical aspects of Wikipedia, like bots, scripts, template localization, and MediaWiki.

Pangasinan hosts its second Wikipedia edit-a-thon: The Wikipedia Community in Pangasinan, the Philippines held its second editing event (edit-a-thon) last month. The event was supported by the Pangasinan Provincial Government and funded by a Wikimedia Foundation grant in addition to anonymous users who provided prizes for the winners. 84 people attended the event where they spent the time listening to introductory sessions about Wikipedia, and how it works, followed by an editing workshop.

Celtic Knot Conference 2017 registration open: Registration is now open for the ‘Celtic Knot’ – Wikipedia Language Conference which will take place Thursday 6 July 2017 at the University of Edinburgh Business School. The conference aims at showcasing innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data that support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities. The event is organized by the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK.

Wiki Loves Earth 2017 kicks off: The annual photography contest will start on 1 May 2017. The competition aims at collecting photos of natural heritage sites—such as nature reserves, landscape conservation areas, national parks, scenic/landscape areas, remarkable gardens, etc. – to illustrate articles on Wikipedia and its sister projects. Local teams in the participating countries will organize local events for taking photos and dispensing prizes on the winners.

Wikimedia Affiliations updates: This week, the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee (AffCom) recognized the Wikimedians of Peru User Group, which aims to support the movement and its community in that country, and de-recognized Wikimedia Philippines as a Wikimedia Affiliate. In addition, Wikimedia Chile announced the results of their board election.

Wikimania 2017 program update: The Wikimania program committee shared an update about the conference submissions received by the committee. So far, the program committee has received 208 lecture submissions, 37 panels, 51 roundtables & birds-of-a-feather, 19 lightning talks, 11 posters, 54 workshops and tutorials. More details about the submissions and next steps on Wikimania-l.

Voting opens in Foundation Board of Trustees election: Nine candidates are currently vying for the three community seats on the Board of Trustees. Information on the candidates and voter requirements is available on Meta; the actual vote is being conducted via SecurePoll.

Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

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Wikimedia Foundation urges Turkish authorities to restore access to Wikipedia

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Istanbul, Turkey as seen from International Space Station

Istanbul, Turkey as seen from the International Space Station on April 16, 2004. Photo by NASA Earth Observatory, public domain.

On Saturday, April 29th, we learned that the Turkish Internet Regulator (ICTA) implemented a block of all language versions of Wikipedia in Turkey. Wikipedia is a global source of neutral, reliable information in hundreds of languages. If it remains, this block will result in millions of people in Turkey losing access to free knowledge about their country and the world around them. We believe knowledge is a fundamental human right, and urge the Turkish government to remove this block.

A dedicated community of volunteer editors write and maintain more than 40 million articles on Wikipedia. This global community has a powerful vision: a world where every single person can freely access the sum of all knowledge. Wikipedia represents a rich source of knowledge on a wide range of topics, from history to medicine to technology. The nearly 300,000 articles on Turkish Wikipedia also provide knowledge for millions of people about Turkey’s history, culture, and geography — written for Turkish speakers, by Turkish speakers.

Freedom of information is a foundation of free knowledge. For many people, Wikipedia is the most accessible source of reliable, neutral information in their language. It may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive, but this alone should never be grounds for removal. We believe that everyone in the world has a fundamental right to freely share and access knowledge without fear of repercussions. We strongly oppose censorship or threats that lead to self-censorship.

The block occurred shortly following a notice on Friday, April 28 from the ICTA, requesting a URL-based block in Turkey of a number of articles on both English and Turkish Wikipedias.

A number of claims attributed to Turkish authorities in the press have suggested that Wikipedians have been part of a “smear campaign,” or created content “supporting terrorism.” We are deeply concerned by any suggestion that freely sharing the encyclopedia articles created by the worldwide volunteer editor community could be misconstrued as supporting a violent or hateful agenda. We believe there has been a misunderstanding. Wikipedia’s purpose is to share encyclopedic information with the world. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we unequivocally condemn and reject terrorism.

The Wikimedia Foundation calls on the Turkish government to restore full access to Wikipedia for the Turkish people, and empower them to once again share in the world’s largest free knowledge resource. We are currently considering appropriate ways to challenge this decision through the Turkish courts. We invite you to join us in calling on the Turkish government to respect the rights of their citizens and #UnblockWikipedia.

The Wikimedia Foundation does not set editorial policy for the Wikimedia projects. We respect and support the editorial decisions made by the community of editors around the world, including those of the Turkish Wikipedia community.

Katherine Maher, Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

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Wikimedia strategy: what has been done, and where are we going?

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The Wikimedia movement is currently engaged in a strategy process aiming to identify a shared direction across the movement. What do we want to build or achieve together over the next 15 years? That’s the big question that we’re collectively trying to answer using research and through community discussions. It’s easy to get lost in the jargon and the complexity of this ambitious process. This post aims to provide a high-level overview of what has been done so far and what to expect next.

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First, I would like to take a moment to think back about what we’ve done over the past 16 years. We started from basically nothing in 2001. Now, Wikimedia sites are among the most visited in the world. We’ve written, compiled, and curated an amazing body of free knowledge including millions of articles, millions of media files, and wikis in hundreds of languages.

We’ve become a community of hundreds of thousands of people working together on “building monuments to other people’s knowledge“, as someone put it during a discussion about the values. It’s easy to focus on the day-to-day routine and lose sight of the impact that we have had on the world, but what we’ve achieved so far is truly remarkable.

Imagining the future

As we reflect back on what we’ve accomplished, we can also ask ourselves: What more can we do? What else should we do in the next 16 years? And so we’ve started thinking about what we want to have done by 2030, because 2030 is a round number and we as humans tend to like round numbers. Thinking about our future is an exercise in imagination, but we’re Wikimedians, so it’s an exercise in imagination based on facts, trends, and sources.

What do we know about the world we’ll be living in in 2030? We know that there will be a lot more people in it, particularly in Asia and Africa. We know that technology will evolve dramatically, notably through mobile devicesrich media, messaging, and new interfaces. We know that it’s currently going to take about a hundred years for children in low-income countries to catch up to the education levels achieved in developed countries. And we know that there is a trend towards a centralization of the internet and a consolidation of power in the hands of a few giant companies, notably in the tech industry.

Photo by Nabin K. Sapkota, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Bringing in new voices

As we’re looking at the trends to consider, we also need to go beyond what we know and who we know. Our vision, what we’re set to accomplish, requires that we realize that we’re not alone. We’re part of an ecosystem, and we need others. We need partners. Those voices will help define our future, because they’re part of it.

This work involves hundreds of interviews, small-group discussions (“salons”), research, and building relationships for future collaboration. The Foundation is notably partnering with Reboot in Indonesia and Brazil to conduct research that is complementary to what was done with the New Readers program in countries where Wikimedia isn’t as well known as what we’re used to. They will interview partners, subject matter experts, and conduct contextual inquiries with readers in their own environment using methods of design research. In parallel, online surveys are being conducted in the places where we are the most popular, to understand how people perceive and use Wikimedia.

This work will inform and complement community discussions with new voices that haven’t traditionally been included in strategy discussions, or that are not yet part of the movement. They can help us identify the global trends that I mentioned earlier as what we should be considering as we discuss our future. For example, scenario planning is going to help us better understand what the world will look like in 2030, notably in terms of demographics, technology, media consumption habits, access to knowledge, and policy.

Some of that has already happened, and it will continue over the next few months. The information will be posted on Meta as it comes in. If you have recommendations of experts and partners in your circles or geographies that would enrich this discussion, you’re welcome to suggest their names on Meta. But more importantly, you can reach out to them yourself. The Foundation can’t do this alone; we are a global and distributed movement, and local relationships are much more likely to bear fruit than a centralized approach. The Foundation has also reserved budget for affiliates who want to run small-group discussions with subject matter experts. If this is something that motivates you, you can contact me and I will direct you to the people who can provide some advice on how to proceed.

Community discussions

This research and outreach will continue to inform the community discussions, which have been going on the past few months. From the first sessions at the Foundation’s all-hands meeting, to on-wiki discussions, to workshops organized by affiliates, to the recent Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, our movement has been buzzing with activity.

When I talk about bringing in new voices, it’s not just about people outside the movement. It’s also about people within the movement who don’t traditionally participate in this kind of discussion. This is why 18 coordinators were contracted to organize and facilitate discussions in many languages, with support from the Foundation’s Community Engagement team. Volunteers and groups have also organized discussions with their communities and affiliates across wikis and off-wiki. This has encouraged many contributors to participate in the discussion by avoiding the “Not my wiki” syndrome.

Some of the processes in the past few years have been more guided, for example by asking for people’s thoughts on the role of mobile devices, and some participants felt too constrained. This time, the discussion started at an earlier stage from a mostly blank page, with a bigger question. It was about imagining the role of the movement and what we would have achieved by 2030.

Many participants enjoyed the freedom that this big question allowed, and contributed insightful responses, resulting in over 1800 statements collected from the various communities. For others, the question was too vague, and they felt that they needed more specific questions to be able to contribute constructively. That’s completely fine, and if that was your case, you will have opportunities to discuss specific topics in more details starting next week.

Photo by Jason Krüger/Wikimedia Germany, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Emerging themes

Until more research comes in, we can take a look at some of the preliminary themes that have started to emerge from the community discussions. The coordinators and many volunteers have started to summarize the discussions to make them more accessible, and a more quantitative analysis will be posted on Meta for translation later this week.

These initial themes won’t be too much of a surprise if you’ve participated in the discussions or been around the movement for a little while. They relate to:

  • collaboration, working together, and partnering with others;
  • fostering a healthy and sustaining community;
  • ensuring content quality, neutrality, and reliability;
  • partnering with the education sector;
  • serving emerging communities and building a global movement;
  • ensuring that we stay relevant through innovation in technology and product;
  • acknowledging and filling knowledge gaps and biases;
  • organizations, governance and structures;
  • languages, diversity, and inclusion;
  • supporting new and experienced contributors;
  • defending our values.

These are just preliminary and are likely to change as more research comes in and discussions happen. Some of them are less about imagining a future and more about how to get there. They may become more actionable later in the year when we start talking about roles, structures, and practical implications.

A closer look at the themes

Now, I’ve mentioned that not everyone feels comfortable with big questions about imagining the future, and that’s completely fine. People think in different ways. Some need the freedom to explore their thoughts based on a short prompt; others need to focus on more specific topics and issues to really be able to think about what they mean.

And that’s what we’re all going to start doing in about a week. Right now, the team is starting to organize all the information that has emerged so far and preparing deep discussions about the main topics. Maybe you’re really interested in content gaps and biases; or moving beyond the model of the western encyclopedia; or possible business models across the movement; or fostering a sustainable and healthy community. You will have the opportunity to research and discuss these topics in detail.

If you haven’t participated until now, or if you’ve felt that you didn’t have anything to contribute, I encourage you to look out for the topic discussions that will start in a week. Together, we will begin to make sense of all this information and organize it into something that describes the direction we are imagining for our movement.

Photo by Carlos Matos, CC BY 2.0.

Reach out if you have questions

I know it’s easy to get lost in the process and the jargon, so I want to extend an invitation to anyone who is confused or has questions about this project. No matter how busy anyone seems to be, there is time to answer your questions and hear your concerns. If you don’t reach out about what isn’t working for you, the team can’t adjust.

If you don’t know who to contact, you can email me and I’ll redirect you to the appropriate person. You can also book a slot directly in my calendar.

This is exciting

I want to finish by saying that this is about your future. It’s exciting. And if you’re not excited, be practical. What we decide collectively will impact your work, your priorities, your headcount. Maybe not in the next fiscal year, but it will have an impact down the line. Now is when you need to participate.

So take a look at the information currently on Meta; look out for an announcement next week to join the topic discussions; share relevant research; comment on other people’s analyses; participation can take many forms. Our future will be shaped by those who show up; I hope that you do.

Guillaume Paumier, Senior Analyst, Editing Product
Wikimedia Foundation

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Bridging Wikimedia and “education for all” at UNESCO Mobile Learning Week

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Photo by the UK Department for International Development, CC BY 2.0.

Today, one out of every 113 people on the Earth today is an asylum seeker, refugee, or has been forced to move within their own country due to conflict, crisis, or political persecution. Having left their homes and support networks behind, educational opportunities for these people are often sparse to nonexistent.

Before I started working at the Wikimedia Foundation, I supported education projects for Syrian refugees in Jordan. I’ve also worked with refugee teachers and schools in Lebanon and Malaysia. My experiences have made one thing clear: for refugees, education represents stability and gives them hope for the future. In 2016, I wrote about Mahmoud, a young teacher living in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. He said:

When I first arrived [to Zaatari], I thought our stay would be temporary, and that soon enough we’d all be back home. When that appeared to be far-fetched… I gathered up the neighbourhood’s children and conducted classes for them. I felt like I needed to help the children, since they weren’t getting their education anywhere else.

 
Late last month, educators, tech professionals, and policy makers came together in Paris for Mobile Learning Week, an annual four-day conference that this year was devoted to people like Mahmoud and the problem of “education in emergencies.” Mobile Learning Week, held at UNESCO‘s headquarters and co-hosted by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, examined how information and communication technologies can help provide learning opportunities for these displaced people.

With Wikipedia being synonymous with learning, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Education Program (WEP) engages educators around the world to empower their students to edit on Wikimedia projects—contributing not only to knowledge production, but also to student learning around vital standards in digital and information literacy, and 21st century skills.

We have a lot to offer in terms of helping people globally, from policy makers to classroom teachers, achieve the goal of “education for all.” For the education team, Mobile Learning Week was a golden opportunity to learn more about needs and trends in education technology, advocate for the Wikipedia Education Program, and to foster relationships with potential partners.

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“[Information and communications technologies have] the potential to change the world by promoting access to education and digital skills.” –Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau

The conference was rife with themes that overlap with our work with the Wikipedia Education Program. Chief among these was the importance of knowledge production—recognizing the value of local knowledge and creating resources that are relevant to the people of a community. The Education Minister of Norway committed to developing a framework for digital literacy that includes components on young people developing their own content, something that several people agreed with. Rosalind Hudnell, President of the Intel Foundation added that “The key is not to just have young people use technology, but to create technology. We need to rethink how education is being delivered. We need to train young people for the jobs of tomorrow. Young people will be job creators.”

A cornerstone of the Education Program is that programs are designed and implemented on a local level, helping to increase contributions to Wikipedias in their local languages and ensure that the participants are invested in them. For example, program leaders in the Philippines hosted Waray language edit-a-thons in local high schools and universities, and in Israel students at a Jerusalem college wrote articles about Shtetls that were destroyed in the Holocaust. In a sense, we are already leading in this field.

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Another major theme of the conference was that of the importance of teacher education, on which there is somewhat of a disagreement on this topic among educators and tech developers. A tech company’s representative said at the conference that “if technology can replace a teacher, then it should”—but for educators, this exemplifies a lack of understanding on what actually happens in schools and classrooms: students are actively taught what is in curriculum, but they also learn what is not in the curriculum, and they each have their own background, needs, preferences, and abilities.

There is no computer program that can replace a good teacher; the problem is that, around the world, putting a good teacher in the classroom is a significant challenge. This is where technology can help, and Mobile Learning Week demonstrated this by highlighting teacher training programs that used simple technology to help teachers meet the needs of their students, even in refugee camps, some of the most under-resourced places in the world.

We can help in this area. One point made by Ita Sheehy, a Senior Education Officer at the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, was the importance of improving teachers’ digital competencies. Many students, regardless of background or current status, are digital natives; their older teachers are not. The Wikipedia Education Program improves the digital competencies of educators; this conference has made us think about how this happens and if or how we can measure it.

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One final topic consistently discussed at the conference was the importance of recognizing learning and certification. Steven Duggan, the Director of Worldwide Education Strategy at Microsoft, said that “Formal education cannot bear the strain of the refugee crisis. With informal education everything begins with the teacher. This is why Microsoft provides a global community for teachers to collaborate, with training and free software.”

With Microsoft’s training programs, teachers can become certified on their technologies. I see this as an opportunity for us as well. I hope the education community will think more about what are the competencies needed to successfully use Wikipedia in the classroom, and I hope  my team can strategize a way to certify teachers in these competencies.

The need to recognize learning was reiterated by Roland Kalamo Lyadunga, a refugee learner from South Sudan: “You learn for yourself, but you need to prove to others what you know. A refugee’s life is unpredictable, they need to be able to continue with their education wherever they go.”

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Mobile Learning Week presented the challenges of achieving “education for all” within the context of education in emergencies, and the unique opportunity to use technology to help solve them. The problems and solutions are not only relevant to situations of conflict and crisis, and we have taken away many useful ideas for the Wikipedia Education Program.

Beyond that, it was clear from these discussions that what our program leaders are already doing is addressing some of these problems, and that we need to better measure and communicate our impact.

Nichole Saad, Program Manager, Wikipedia Education Program
Wikimedia Foundation

You can find more themes and outcomes from the conference in our full report in the upcoming edition of “This Month in Education”. More information on Mobile Learning Week—including video streams of the policy forum, presentation documents, and the conference program—can be found on the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week website.

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